My Sweet Jojo
Oil on canvas, 12x12
Jojo died on Saturday, at the hand of our caring veterinarian, Dr. Michelle. I'd brought Joey in on Monday. She was dragging in a way that was not her. She was listless and still. She had been coughing for a year, and we'd taken her in many times, but no one had been able to get to the bottom of it.
On Monday, X-rays showed that her lungs looked very bad, with stuff that could be an infection or could be cancer. We left with steroids and antibiotics. I took her back on Friday, and though her energy and strength had come back, she had, in fact, he'd gone deeply downhill. Jaundice had set in, and when Dr. Michelle X-rayed my old friend again, she found a mass of cancer in Jojo's liver, and understood that the growths in Joey's lungs were metastates.
I'd always promised Jojo that I would not let her suffer, would not let her be afraid. I would not let her waste away or die in pain. Dr. Michelle said Jojo's remaining time could be measured in days, and they would not be pleasant ones. I made an appointment to have my dear friend put to sleep, and we brought her in on Saturday.
Peter and I are bereft. I am sad and lost, and the world looks bleak and broken. Jojo was the dog of my heart. She was my constant companion, the best dog friend anyone could ever want. She was loving and joyous and happy to be alive and barking, right up to the end.
Jojo was a rescue dog. It was 2004, and the Times Herald-Record, in Middletown, NY, where I worked, ran a weekly shelter animal page. The pictures were in black and white, but Joey's startling blue eyes stared out at me, and we went to the shelter in Pennsylvania and got her. We had a station wagon at the time, and Jojo stood on the lowered back seat on the ride home and leaned so hard on my shoulder that it hurt.
She made friends immediately with the three dogs we had at the time. She was happy to let Kaja be the boss. She teased Looie and he loved it. She persisted in playing with Smokey until he learned to play, a thing he'd clearly never learned. When Woodreau came to live with us - he had been so abused that we couldn't pet him for a year - she took him on as her acolyte, and they were the best of pals always.
Jojo was the happiest dog I've ever known. She woke up happy, raced out the door every morning happily barking, to announce herself to the world. She wagged her tail and made friends with every person she met. Jojo invented games to play with us, and amused us with them for years. She never stopped playing with the other dogs, even last week, when she clearly wasn't feeling well.
Jojo - we called her the Velcro Dog - stayed by my side whenever it was possible. For all these years, she slept beside me at night, stretched out on the couch alongside me in the evenings, curled up on the rug by my feet when I worked on the computer, and kept me company in the studio. She nursed me when I was sick, staying with me every moment. We walked hundreds of miles around town here, and every walk was a thrilling, happy adventure for her. When I came back from art fair trips, she was so overjoyed to see me that she barked and whined and raced in laps throughout the house, leaping onto and off of the couch and the bed, flinging herself onto my lap, rubbing her whole body against me, and licking every inch of me that she could reach.
She had one really bad trait - she was a runner. I'm sure that's how we ended up with her; she ran away from someone who clearly had loved her. She and Smokey ran away repeatedly when we lived in New York, looking back over their shoulders at us like two bad kids. She ran off many times in Connecticut, heading into the nature conservancy beside our house, and worrying Woodreau until Peter captured her. Here in Wachapreague, she ran away a few times, ending up at the town dock, wagging and greeting people.
She had two other traits that some people would call faults, but I never really did. One was that she barked a lot. She was about the barkiest dog ever. The other was related. We used to go to a nice dog park when we lived in Connecticut. Sometimes, we'd take Jojo and Smokey, and let them run. Jojo would pick some dog at the park and herd him, barking and barking and barking, chasing him all around the park. Inevitably, the target dog would turn and snap at Joey, at which point, Smokey would go after the attacker.
Our home is quieter without Jojo. It is emptier. It is nowhere near as happy as it was. It's hard to go into the studio without Jojo, or to let the dogs out and not hear her crazy, constant barking. It's tough for me to sleep without my dear dog by my side, and to wake into a world without her. I miss her unfailing, deep-hearted love for me. I miss her interest in everything, her playfulness and her mesmerizing blue eyes. I am grateful, so grateful, that she warmed my life for these past 11 years.
Rest in peace, my dear friend. I will miss you every day of my life, and will see you at the Rainbow Bridge.
If you want to see more photos of Jojo, you can click here to check out her Facebook page.